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Reuters/Stefan Wermuth
DeLuca at work in 2012.

Subway co-founder and CEO Fred DeLuca has passed away, leaving his sister in charge

Fred DeLuca, who opened his first sandwich shop when he was 17 years old and eventually ran the world’s biggest fast-food franchise, died yesterday (Sept. 14) at the age of 67. He had been ill from leukemia since 2013, and a few months ago appointed his sister, Suzanne Greco, as the president of the company.

While DeLuca retained his title as chief executive, Greco took over most day-to-day operations for the sandwich chain, which has more than 44,000 independently-owned franchises in 110 countries.

The company’s rapid growth drew a backlash from many of its franchise owners, who complained that complicated terms and expensive fees made it difficult for them to turn a profit.

“I really feel terrific that so many people have done so well, but there are risks,” he told Fortune in 1998. “People can lose money. It bothers me that people lose money, but I don’t lose sleep over it. This is America.”

Whether Greco or someone new will take over as CEO is unclear, but in any case this is a rocky time for Subway: Sales were already sagging when former spokesman Jared Fogle became embroiled in a child pornography scandal last month, and signs pointed to an upcoming turnaround attempt.

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